Ice Level Call Deemed a Success
by WILLIAM HOUSTON
Globe and Mail Update
There was no way to escape knowing that announcer Chris Cuthbert was making National Hockey League broadcasting history Friday night.
TSN built its telecast of the New York Rangers-Buffalo Sabres game around the novelty of Cuthbert calling the game from ice level.
We were told Fred Cusick, the long-time Boston Bruins voice, now retired, was once forced to work near the ice after a fire made things a little too hot in the broadcast booth. But this was the first time for a network to deliberately place its broadcast team at rinkside.
It was impossible to forget this because the story was central to TSN's telecast. Cuthbert and his game analyst partner, Glenn Healy, received a large amount of face time at their spot between the two benches. TSN also presented a viewer poll asking fans which location they preferred to watch a game from — high in the nose-bleed section, at the rail, in a bar or on the couch.
During the first period, reporter James Cybulski informed us of the players' interest in the new broadcasting location.
"This is probably the first time I've seen players just as excited about a broadcast as the evening's game," he said.
Whatever you say. We'll say this: locating the broadcast team at ice level is clearly much more than a gimmick.
The experiment worked, it improved the broadcast and should be tried again.
For starters, it brings the viewers closer to the action. Cuthbert was able to conduct brief interviews, tape-delayed by a few seconds, with the coaches during breaks in the game.
An announcer never did that before, not face to face.
The setup also increased the participation of Cuthbert in the telecast. He didn't just call the game.
He functioned as a sort of on-site host and also reported, as did Healy.
Instead of just being semi-anonymous play-by-play guys, they became the focal point. There's nothing wrong with enhancing the profile of your two leading commentators.
Did Cuthbert enjoy it?
"It's a little quicker down here," he said in the first period.
Is it a more effective way to call a game?
"It's pretty special, not perfect," he said.
Sight lines from that low position could have been a problem.
The first goal, a sharp-angled shot by Buffalo's Jochen Hecht, seemed to catch him by surprise.
Still, it was a good show and it's unlikely to be the last.